Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#ISTE2014 Newbie: With A Little Help From My Friends

image from
I just attended my first ISTE Conference & Expo!  Did you hear me? I just attended my first ISTE Conference & Expo! Sorry, I'm just very excited and energized after my time in Atlanta. So much so that I wrote this post in the airport as I waited for my flight home and on the plane. If it rambles a little, bear with me.

Over the past few years, since I started building a PLN via Twitter, I have been watching the stream of tweets with the #ISTE conference hashtag as my school year would come to an end.  As I read all of the tweets going by with links to amazing resources and nuggets from thoughtful sessions, I knew that eventually I would have to go myself. This year, I was able to attend in Atlanta and it was an exhausting, rewarding, learning, connecting, type of experience.

image courtesy of
Fortunately, I got by with a little help from my friends. I was able to hook up with members of my PLN from the moment I got there and they helped show me the ropes. A big thanks to Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), Kyle Calderwood (@kcalderw), Liz Calderwood (@liz1544), Kate Baker (@KtBkr4), and, of course, Jerry Blumengarten(@cybraryman1).  There were many people that I met and had the opportunity to talk with because the folks above took me under their wing and mentored me during my time at #ISTE2014.

Everyone told me that the informal conversations are as valuable as the sessions themselves and I truly understand what they meant now. The learning and connecting can take many forms; a brief chat with Nathan Stevens (@nathan_stevens) and Jenny Grabiac (@techgirljenny) at a social event, a conversation with Jessica Allen (@jessievaz12) over dinner, a dialogue about a project from one of the poster session presenters (they are GREAT) in the Galleria, a warm, wonderful hug and words of encouragement in the Blogger's Cafe from Paula Naugle (@plnaugle), a
me and Paula Naugle
great opportunity to go to lunch with Jerry, Billy, and Kathy Bloomfield from Readworks, or a quick conversation in the conference hallway with Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) to remind that "You Matter!"  These real life connections are part of what make the virtual connections via social media so valuable. 

#ISTE2014 was also filled with fantastic sessions. The biggest problem was deciding which ones to choose because there were often several sessions of interest to me at the same time. I came away with some great ideas from Kyle Pace (@kylepace) and Michelle Baldwin's (@michellek107) session "Full STEAM ahead: Cultivating connections with the arts." I learned that I can start a maker space in my school and classrooms and I don't have to break the bank from the folks at Digital Harbor Foundation's (@DHFBaltimore) session: "Classroom Makerspace: Your Guidebook to Inexpensive Making in the Classroom". I was inspired by the session
Levar Burton speaking to a packed room.
with Levar Burton (@levarburton) whose Reading Rainbow has helped so many children over the past decades. That barely scratches the surface of what I have learned (fodder for more posts).

You never know what opportunities will present themselves at #ISTE2014. I arrived on Saturday and that evening received a message asking if I would help out in a session as a Twitter Mentor. So my first professional development opportunity at the convention was actually working with Elana Leoni (@elanaleoni) from Edutopia and Kyle Calderwood in their session "Saved by Twitter: 10 ways to use Twitter to Connect" (#savedbytwitter) as they worked with a room of 150 new Twitter users to show the power of the social media platform for connecting and professional development. Awesome! The next night I went in to support Jerry Blumengarten and Susan Bearden (@s_bearden) in their session "Twitter 101: Build Your Personal Learning Network" and was asked to do something similar. 

I'm going to stop now because now that I have my initial thoughts down I need to process them a bit more. I am sure there are more posts coming when I collect my thoughts.  Stay tuned...

So, a few takeaways from this post....

1. Go to #ISTE2015 in Philadelphia if you can

While there:
2. Talk to people, they will talk back
3. Take a risk and leave your comfort zone
4. Take the time to explore the Expo floor. There are some wonderful things there and a great deal to learn (I didn't even mention that above!)

But, Right now:
4. Get on Twitter and start to connect with the amazing folks out in our education community.
5. Follow all of the people I mention in this post, you won't regret it!
6. Leave a comment and let's start a conversation here or on Twitter

P.S. Thanks to all of the educators with whom I've interacted during the last several days. It has been wonderful.
Me, Nathan, Kate, Aaron, Liz, & Kyle


  1. Good to see you and so many others from NJ at Saturday's events. ISTE2014 was fabulous and now that my head is no longer spinning, it's time to regroup and sort it all out. What an inspiring conference. I'm already looking forward to ISTE2015 in Philly!

  2. Bruce, it was so nice getting to meet and chat with you during ISTE. I'm glad that you are now one of my "Twitter Buddies". Attending ISTE as a newbie can be overwhelming for those who are not connected. Your advice is spot on for those who are looking to attend ISTE2015 as a newbie. Having a PLN makes all the difference as I have learned over the years and by sttending eight previous ISTE conferences.

    As you know Bill and Kyle are my "Twitter sons" and they have dubbed me an honorary NJ educator. I look forward to learning and sharing with you via Twitter and reconnecting with you at #edcampNJ in November.